Taking the Road Less Traveled
When my husband and I got married less than a year out of college we hadn’t traveled too many places. He had never flown in an airplane or been to a foreign country. I had been to a handful of states and found while in college that I loved exploring the surrounding area our school was located in. There were so many waterfalls, backroads, and hiking trails to see and experience. So many different people to meet, foods to try, and places to take pictures of. I told my new husband that I wanted us to get out of our state and explore somewhere - anywhere - at least once per year. I didn’t care if that meant we had to camp in a tent, sleep in our car, or save up for a whole year (we’ve done plenty of all three) if it meant we could go somewhere.
And we have. Early in our marriage we took our 2-door Chevy Beretta through the backroads of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and I had to test puddles for their depth to make sure we didn’t bottom out. We’ve camped next to streams in the Adirondacks and not budgeted enough for meals and dared each other to ask for extra food from a neighbor (we went to bed hungry that night). We played in the snow in June at the top of dormant volcanos in the Pacific Northwest. Later after we had our son, we hiked in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and missed the ferry back from Door County, Wisconsin and had a long drive back home with a 9 month old. When our daughter was born, we camped with our 2 month and 2 ½ year old in unexpectedly cold summer weather on the shores of Lake Superior. Our infant daughter was thankfully the warmest one among us in our tent, since I had grabbed her brother’s old snow suit at the last minute.
Traveling Further Afield
As they got older we started to travel further away from home and we stomped on Atlantic beaches so the crabs wouldn’t come out of their holes as we laid our beach towels down. We tried fresh-caught lobster for the first time, and my husband and son went deep sea fishing and the red snapper they caught was our dinner. Then they were old enough to fly for the first time and we took them to Disney World but quickly discovered that they both preferred EPCOT with all the the different cultures and foods that they had never tried before. We saved and saved and found ourselves snorkeling with sea turtles in Kauai, eating fresh pineapple every day, and exploring bays and waterfalls on Oahu.
Our kids were 7 and 9 at this point and used to exploring new places, whether it was the next town over or another state. Whether it meant we slept in the car, our tent, or stayed in a hotel. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were planting the seeds of wanderlust in their little hearts. That can be a wonderful thing. It’s opened their eyes to people who live differently than them and to take them as they are. It’s open their palettes to enjoy ethnic foods we don’t have here at home. It’s broadened their minds to appreciate the great diversity of cultures, architecture, history, and geography. We really do live in an amazing country and I am so glad that I’ve been able to share it’s discovery with my kids.
Our kids do love to get back home, but now as they are becoming adults, teaching them a life of exploration has had some unforeseen consequences too. Our high-school daughter is going to study abroad in Europe these next 6 months and although we are thrilled for her, we didn’t expect to watch her leave the nest so soon. Our son is delaying college plans and exploring our National Parks and western states instead. I am so excited for the both of them, and I’ll admit a bit jealous too. But now it’s their turn to create their own traveling memories and maybe my husband and I need to bust out our old two-man tent and explore some new places ourselves.